These Young Women Bucked Stereotypes, Found True Identity in Hunting
This story originally appeared in the August 2023 edition of SCI’s Safari Times.
Does a little girl have a place in the hunting world? How can a teenage girl stand her ground in the war on hunters? Can a young woman find who she is meant to be by glassing a mountainside or chasing elk bugles at dawn?
Here are four who did.
This month, SCI’s Women Go Hunting (WGH) initiative celebrates the daughters who hunt and have risen to be passionate advocates for hunters and sustainable-use conservation. SCI Litigation Associate and Women Go Hunting committee member Madie Demaske rounded-up three of SCI’s past Youth Hunter Award winners, young women who found their calling in the outdoors, and whose character and determination were forged in the wild.
These are their inspirational stories. Share them with the girls in your life, and don’t wait, take your daughter, granddaughter or niece hunting today!
-Barbara Crown, SCI Hunter Information Service
Madie Demaske – SCI Litigation Associate
I don’t remember my first hunt; I was only 18-months old and strapped in a baby carrier on my dad’s back. My mom had to work and what better thing to do with your infant child than find a mule deer doe for the freezer.
My dad still remembers my little feet kicking his back and saying, “Got ’em! Got ’em!” Who would have thought that day would kickstart my passion for hunting and eventually lead me to work for the largest hunting organization in the world?
After my first hunt, you could not get me out of camouflage. I wasn’t old enough to hunt myself, but I was old enough to fetch geese from the ground pit, to taste test all the donuts and breakfast burritos, and spot all the deer before the boys. It wasn’t until I turned 8 that I had a tag in my pocket – a turkey tag. From there I became obsessed. First it was a turkey, then a deer, then a bighorn sheep, then a Cape buffalo, then a markhor.
Not only did my first hunt kick start a passion that would take me around the world hunting, but it also lit a fire inside me to fight for hunting. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized I wanted to become an attorney, so I could use the gifts I had been given to protect access to hunting. I wanted every little girl and boy to have the same opportunities I had, to have the ability to sip hot cocoa in a goose blind with their dad or to travel in pursuit of wild game.
What better way to do that than to work for SCI? After I passed the bar exam, I began interviewing for my current position. During each interview, I mentioned my passion for hunting and desire to protect it for the future generation. They must have liked what I said because I have been on staff with SCI for almost a year as their litigation associate. It’s crazy to think of all the ways hunting has impacted and continues to impact my life.
Libby Gear – 2023 SCI & Bass Pro Shop/Cabela’s Young Hunter Award Winner
At age 4, I embarked on a journey that had a lasting impact on my life. It is a journey that has shaped me into the hunter I am today.
I began hunting with my dad. My sister and I loved hunting with him because of the quality time we shared with him and the vivid memories we made. At age 6, we hunted in Africa for the first time as a family. I had listened attentively to stories about Africa and studied pictures, but nothing prepared me for the unforgettable adventure that lay ahead. Africa changed everything for me as it generated an even deeper love for hunting and the outdoors than my young mind could have imagined. The memories of my joyful family bouncing in the back of a safari truck over exotic lands covered with amazing animals are ingrained in my mind. Also, I loved the kind-hearted people I was privileged to meet, the extraordinary hunts I experienced and the diverse cultures I encountered. I witnessed the appreciation of native people who had so little, and I learned how our presence meant much needed jobs and meat for their families.
As I grew older, I was blessed with many hunting excursions in North America and Africa. I also came to see a need for more hunting advocates. I spoke out about hunting at every opportunity, often facing opposition. From classrooms to social media to individual conversations, I spoke about the truth of hunting.
I came to realize that hunting is not only a part of me, but it is what drove me to become the person I am. I also learned that hunting is widely misunderstood and that most people have no idea what the true meaning of hunting is. I want people to understand that hunting is not about trophies, but rather about habitat and conservation, irreplaceable memories and a way of life unlike any other.
Achieving the SCI & Bass Pro Shop/Cabela’s Young Hunter Award had been my goal for years. However, I was never motivated by the award itself, but rather the platform to convey the importance of our Second Amendment and the future of hunting by sharing how my adventures shaped me into the hunter advocate I am. It was a way to recognize the people on this journey with me, the places we visited and the impact we left. Being recognized as the award winner provided me with more opportunities to share my unique perspective.
With constant attacks on the Second Amendment and active anti-hunters, my generation of hunters has a difficult task of ensuring hunting will last long into the future. I am determined to have a strong voice in perpetuating the life-enhancing experiences associated with hunting.
Hannah Finley – SCI & Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Young Hunter Award Winner
Spending many days afield with my family (even before my own legs could carry me), I became deeply rooted in the outdoors and developed a wanderlust for wild and remote places. I learned to find peace in the sound of an elk bugle echoing through a canyon, and joy in mornings spent on a rough hillside glassing for black bears.
Despite being raised around hunting, when the opportunity arose to do it myself, I was hesitant. Not knowing very many women who hunted, I wasn’t sure that it was for me. My parents had always prioritized getting us outdoors, and I had all the values, passion and the respect for nature that makes a hunter. Yet, the stereotypes associated with what a hunter should look like still ran through my head.
My father, a true conservationist and the most knowledgeable outdoorsman I know, gave me all the tools to be a good hunter and steward of the wild. Yet, he let it be my decision as to what I would do from there – never pushing, always encouraging. When I decided to give hunting a try, rabbit hunting seemed like a low stakes endeavor. Yet, the time with my father, the neon sunset, and the joy I felt (even after a challenging day where nothing cooperated) was more than enough. I thank God that I chose to ignore what antiquated social norms said I should be and discovered what I am – a hunter.
I was hooked and I wanted to know it all, not realizing that one of the most incredible things about hunting is that you will never know it all. If you think you do, nature will humble you soon enough.
After many years pursuing everything from impala to black bears (with a special affinity for elk), I decided to apply for the SCI & Bass Pro Shop/Cabela’s Young Hunter Award – not to feel accomplished, but with the desire to erase doubts in the minds of little girls who wonder if the outdoors has a place for her in it. There is a place for you in hunting, and if you feel like there’s not, make one. One day, you will be miles into the backcountry, trailing your first bull elk as the aspens quake around you, and you’ll know. This is the thing you’ve always been searching for.
Shae Greidanus – SCI & Bass Pro Shop/Cabela’s Young Hunter Award Winner
Hunting is in my DNA and adventure is woven in my genes. I’m blessed to have been born into a hunting family that taught me how to shoot, care for animals and navigate the outdoors. When I was 12 years old, my family went on a hunting safari in South Africa. During that safari, I shot my first four animals: warthog, impala, nyala and gemsbok. I was hooked. Even then, I didn’t mind hours in the blind or the work that came later; I felt joy from a well-earned reward.
Since then, I’ve traveled all over North America, Europe and Africa, hunting with a bow, muzzleloader or rifle wherever an opportunity came. As of this year, I have hunted 36 different species.
Whether it’s sitting for whitetails in the Midwest, chasing sheep in the mountains, or playing the mind-games of leopards in Namibia, I love to hunt. There is nothing like seeing new places, diving into new cultures and learning to connect with my surroundings. I’ve learned grit, patience, strength and humility in the process. I’ve seen spectacular views, met the most amazing people and studied animals few Americans know exist. The distractions of this world disappear as soon as I look through the scope or sight.
As a young woman in this world, I’ve learned there are unique battles that women fight. One great thing about hunting is that nature doesn’t care about the differences between one hunter and another. Out there, we must be as equally skilled, self-reliant and prepared as anyone else. If you want it, you must do it yourself. Those skills translate from hunting to daily life.
Pursuing the SCI & Bass Pro Shop/Cabela’s Young Hunter Award came from a desire to encourage those who have supported me and to be an example for other young hunters. I’m honored to be part of a list of accomplished young hunters and be introduced to others who share my passion. It’s my hope to bring more young people into the hunting industry, to leave a legacy through wildlife and to represent what the modern hunter truly is. I’m incredibly thankful for my family who have taken me around the world on these adventures, and I hope everyone reading this will take their kids hunting.
Convention Event For Women
Inspire the girls in your life. Take them to the Women Go Hunting Mix & Mingle at the 2024 SCI Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, and meet all four of the amazing young women featured here. The Mix & Mingle takes place on Saturday, February 3, 2024. It is a free, ladies-only event where women and girls can meet their female hunting heroes and role models, including Diana Award winners, SCI influencers and ambassadors, women guides, outfitters and advocates. Registration is open! Go to showsci.org.
Also, be sure to join the SCI Women Go Hunting Facebook page and submit stories and photographs to safariclub.org/womengohunting. Women on their hunting journey should also submit their trophies for the 100 Women Challenge to Rachel Settle in the Record Book Department. Email her at [email protected].